Jani and the Great Pursuit by Eric Brown
Please note Jani and the Great Pursuit is a direct sequel to Jani and the Greater Game. If you haven’t read that first then it is highly likely that this review may contain minor spoilers. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya! Understood? Splendid…tally ho!!
Jani and her stalwart companions Lieutenant Alfie Littlebody and Anand Doshi find themselves chased from India, via Greece, to London by the British authorities, Russian spies and a Hindu priest – who all want what Jani carries, the ventha-di: the key that will open the door to other worlds.
In London she attempts to rescue the imprisoned alien Mahran – the only person who might help her save the Earth from the invasion of the merciless Zhell, the self-styled Masters of the Cosmos.
But will she escape London and reach Tibet before the forces of evil capture her – and before she is betrayed by someone she considers loyal to her cause?
Back in August 2014, I read a novel called Jani and the Greater Game by Eric Brown. It had a wonderful steampunk edge and was a perfect example of how good action/adventure should be. Jani and the Greater Game was great fun. I remember I got terribly excited as soon as I saw the cover. It had a spectacular image of a clockwork elephant on the front that promised something just a little bit special.
Fast forward to 2016 and the sequel has arrived. Janisha ‘Jani’ Chaterjee and her friends have returned, and it becomes swiftly evident that they still have a certain knack for getting themselves into a whole heap of trouble.
In this latest instalment of their adventures, Jani and her stalwart companions, Alfie and Anand, manage to final arrive in the Empire’s capital. They are still pursued by the forces of evil however. The powers behind this conflict have a very long reach, and arriving in London does little to guarantee that Jani is safe. She is going to have to bring all of her not inconsiderable intellect to bear if she can have any hope of saving the day.
Brown’s characters are loads of fun. The heroine is the very definition of heroic, the villains darkly evil and villainous. His iteration of London is also well realised. Brown points out the marvels of the age, but never shies away from the darker side of Victorian society. The inequalities, whether based on gender, age or race, are all present in this version of the world. I’m glad these factors haven’t been ignored. Pretending they didn’t happen would be ill advised and their presence actually adds some nice extra depth to the narrative.
One of the things I like most about this book is the episodic nature of events. I felt like I was reading the literary equivalent of some long forgotten radio serial. Many of the chapters end on a suspenseful note. I kept expecting to hear an announcer pipe up something along the lines of “How will Jani and her friends escape? Will they ever make it to London? What will be waiting for them there? Tune in next week to find out!”. Steampunk lends itself particularly well to this sort of pacing. I love when a plot whips along and you have no idea where you are going to end up next. What with an alien enhanced arms race, and more espionage type shenanigans than you could ever hope to unravel, there is plenty for a steampunk aficionado to enjoy.
This book ends with a suitably cosmic cliff-hanger. I can only hope that there is a final novel intended? I need to know how this all ends up. Things have escalated, this isn’t just a battle for the Earth any more, this is a battle for the entire galaxy.
Jani and the Great Pursuit is published by Solaris and is available now. If you’re a steampunk fan then I am sure you’ll get a kick out of this. One word of advice however, if you haven’t read book one in this series read it first. You can thank me later.